Two of My Stories Featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1st Ever Story Vending Machine in the U.S.

zoetrope cafeThis is the most fun thing to happen in my writing life in a long time. Two of my stories have been chosen to be sold in the first ever story vending machine in the U.S. This has been introduced already in France and Coppola unveiled his story machine at Zoetrope Cafe in San Francisco last week. More about this HERE! If you’re in San Francisco, do check it out and buy a story! story vending machine

New and forthcoming stories…

Just completed the first official Fast Flash© Workshop this past weekend and it went great! Had an amazing group of smart, talented writers who were so much fun to work with. And the September workshop is already filled! But watch this space for announcements of future workshops.

Heavy Feather front coverToday, I received my contributor copy of Heavy Feather Review 4.2 and it’s beautiful. You may subscribe HERE!

Also, I’m very honored by recent acceptances to the University of South Carolina’s literary magazine, Yemassee Journal, and the beautiful and innovative Threadcount Magazine .

THE LINEUP: 20 PROVOCATIVE WOMEN WRITERS, edited by Richard Thomas, is set to launch next month from Black Lawrence Press . I am super proud to be included along with: Laura Benedict, Paula Bomer, Karen Brown, Shannon Cain, Kim Chinquee, Monica Drake, Amina Gautier, Tina May Hall, Nancy Hightower, Jessica Hollander, Holly Goddard Jones, Stacey Levine, Kelly Luce, Nina McConigley, ŸJanet Mitchell, ŸEthel Rohan, ŸKarin Tidbeck, Damien Angelica Walters, and Claire Vaye Watkins.The LIneup

Here is some early praise for the anthology:

  • “These are stories that live on the edge of the cliff. They’re wild and unpredictable and important and wonderfully unsettling. Somewhere in this volume, you’ll find your new favorite voice.”
    —Rebecca Makkai
  • “The Lineup is full of ferocious, dark, and brilliant voices. The book as chorus both troubles and dazzles, as all great fiction does.”
    —Lauren Groff
  • “The writers that make up The Lineup are more than just provocative. With its anorexic ragamuffins and organ-thieving medical students, its doomed shot-girls and exterminator-besotted housewives, this anthology will pry your eyes open wide and weeping with gratitude to the spectacle of lives being lived under transcendent duress. By turns searing, heartrending, hilarious, grim, profoundly tender and indelibly macabre.”
    — Adrian Van Young

The Wide And Lonely World

I have a new short story published today in The Economy. The Economy is cool. They publish just a single poet, prose writer, and visual artist per issue, and they’ve published some of my favorite writers. So I was very flattered to be asked to contribute by editor, Schuyler Dickson.

Anyway, please go read The Wide and Lonely World. The story was inspired by this very midwestern gothic looking photo of my brothers and me, taken, I think in the summer of 1968 or ’69: Welcome to Missouri.

Good things galore!

I know. I’m sorry I’ve left this blog untended. I had surgery Sept. 12th and I’m in recuperation mode. Recuperation mode is really nice at first until one starts to go seriously stir crazy. But I’m doing well and getting stronger every day and I really, really, don’t want anything to do with hospitals for a long time to come.

Doll PalaceOk, enough about that. I have good things to report. First, my review of Sara Lippmann’s fantastic short story collection, DOLL PALACE, is now up at The Lit Pub blog. Here’s an excerpt:

“These are stories filled with talk, conversations, recitations, memories, flirtations (often dangerous ones) and hard-won epiphanies I think what I love best about these stories though is their refusal to dot every i. There are no simple answers and lessons aren’t always learned. A deft writer, Lippmann displays control over her narratives even as she achieves a certain wildness and strangeness that both fascinates and feels entirely true. I love the fearlessness of these stories (see “Target Girl” and “Everyone Has Your Best Interests at Heart” and “Babydollz” and “Talisman”among others).”

One cool aspect of recommending books at The Lit Pub blog is that you’re asked to suggest other books readers might enjoy (that are similar in some way to the book you’re recommending), and I was happy to suggest Pia Ehrhardt’s Famous Fathers and Other Stories, Emma Straub’s Other People We Married, Amy Hempel’s Tumble Home, and Rachel Sherman’s The First Hurt. (I noticed later that Rachel Sherman actually wrote a blurb for Sara’s book, which is perfect.)

So. Just get this book. The stories are superb and Sara Lippmann is a terrific writer and human being. One of the kindest people I know in the lit world or any world. And oh, Dock Street Press is exceptional.

The other good news I have is that my short story, “The Wide and Lonely World” has been accepted! I was solicited to send something and did and hadn’t heard back for awhile so assumed they didn’t want the story (writers, you know the feeling), but yay, they liked it a lot and I’ll post a link and more info when the story’s up. I’m delighted. This is a story I messed with for so long, not quite knowing why it wasn’t working for me, until one day I gave myself the challenge of cutting it by 50%. Crazy! So I cut it from 5,000 words to 2,500, which required huge objectivity and mercilessness, but I did it, and the story is much better for the cutting I do believe.

And! I was surprised and thrilled that Blue Fifth Review nominated my story, “The Blue of Milk” for Best of the Net 2014. It’s a story I really liked but felt shy about sending out into the world. I’m very honored and cheered by Sam Rasnake and Michelle Elvy’s confidence in and support of the story. I posted it here awhile back.

Lastly, the website for the new MFA program that I’ll be teaching flash fiction for will be up and running soon and I’ll post a link to it here when it is. I’m VERY excited about this and proud to be a part of it. More to come!

My Tattered Copy of Best American Short Stories 1998: A Short Story Writer's Primer *

story pageThe first (contemporary) short story I ever read was “Appetites” by Kathryn Chetkovich. It was the first story in the 1998 volume of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Garrison Keillor. That story knocked me out. I think I read the whole volume in one sitting. I was 38 years old and falling in love, for the first time, with literary short fiction.

Up until then I believe I thought that short stories had been discontinued after 1890. Like most people I knew, I read novels exclusively. I read whatever was on the bestseller list. I read The Thorn Birds on the train in to work. I read the latest Stephen King. In 1998 I was living with my family in Australia. I’d recently given birth to my fourth child. My days and nights were given over to childrearing. Slack-jawed from sleep deprivation and lack of adult contact besides the checker at the grocery store, I needed an outlet. So I signed up for a creative writing class (something dopey like: Explore Your Creativity Through Writing!) held every Saturday morning above a health food store in Bondi.

That class turned out to be the most fun I’d had for a long time. It completely woke me up. I was the suburban housewife amidst the sweetest group of young hippies and surfer dudes there ever was. We were given prompts and wrote exercises, but the instructor wanted us to keep in mind that by the last class we were to have completed a Short Story. All I could remember of short stories were the obligatory stories we read in English 101. Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain and so forth. Homework. Was I supposed to write something like that?

After one of the classes I went into a nearby bookstore and discovered The Best American Short Stories 1998. Perfect. Short stories. American ones. The best.BASS 1998

I still have it. I’ve reread it countless times. Its front cover has fallen off and there’s writing in the margins and sentences I’d run over with pink highlighter and exclamation marks all over the place. On some of the pages there are scribbles courtesy of an impatient toddler made to sit on my lap while I read. On the first page of Poe Ballantine’s story I’d written “HOLY SHIT” (the extent of my critical reading skills at the time) and that was pretty much how I felt about all the stories. Looking at the book now, I feel the same rush of joy I felt when I read it in 1998.

I saw what a short story could be and what it could do. I wanted to write stories this good. I wanted to learn everything and to read every short story I could get my hands on. This book was my primer. Each story held a lesson or a revelation.

I’ll just mention a few here:

“Appetites” by Kathryn Chetkovich: It’s okay to be funny. The tender parts are all the more moving if there are funny parts, too.

“The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue” by Poe Ballantine: The glory of specific details. The holy truth that is childhood. And my own childhood was worth writing about.

“Glory Goes and Gets Some” by Emily Carter: Voice, voice, voice! The truth is that there is humor in tragedy.

“Body Language” by Diane Schoemperlen: There’s more than one way to tell a story. You can be innovative and original.

“Flower Children” by Maxine Swann: This is one of my all-time favorite short stories. It’s so full of amazing details. How language can sing. It shows the way a story can subtly arc and shift right out from under you. And whoosh, there’s that beautiful and breathless final paragraph.

The authors’ notes at the end of the book were also a revelation for me. Most of the stories had gone through several drafts, some took years to write. This didn’t deter me. It thrilled me. I felt a kinship to these writers who were all new to me then. Short story writing was something worth dedicating one’s life to. The world was complicated, baffling, and lonely. But here was short fiction, offering me a way in. And when you’re 38 years old and you’re just discovering this for the first time, it feels like nothing short of a miracle.

*For throw back Thursday…This essay was originally published for Short Story Month in 2012 on David Abram’s blog, The Quivering Pen.